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Money Is the Top Motivator for Employees Who Quit Their Jobs

Money Is the Top Motivator for Employees Who Quit Their Jobs
Credit: Fabryczka Fotografii/Shutterstock

While baby boomers, Gen Xers and millennials don't always see eye-to-eye on what they want out of their careers, there is one issue they all agree on. Employees from all three generations say not getting paid enough is what's most likely to have them looking for a new job, research finds.

The new study from Paychex revealed that overall nearly 70 percent of employees say that a low salary is the primary reason they have left or would leave a job.

Although the largest percentage of employees from each generation indicated how much they're paid is a driving factor behind them staying or leaving their employer, some generations say it's a slightly more motivating factor for them.

"All three generational categories (baby boomers, Generation X, and millennials) ranked a low salary as a top reason to leave, but millennials put more importance on salary, with a whopping 70.82 percent of those surveyed marking it as a reason they quit," the study's authors wrote.

Generation X employees weren't far behind, however, with 69.32 percent saying they have left or would leave a job because a low salary. While still critical to baby boomers, it was slightly less important to them with just 58.46 percent saying not getting paid enough would motivate them to find a new job. [See Related Story: Think Your Employee Is About to Quit? How to Handle It]

While salary issues topped all three generations' lists, there were some key differences among their other reasons for leaving a job. Here are the top six reasons employees from each generation would leave, or have left, a job because of:

Baby boomers (Born between 1946 and 1964)

  1. Low salary – 58.46 percent
  2. Lack of benefits – 49.23 percent
  3. Overworked – 47.69 percent
  4. Boss didn't honor commitments – 40.00 percent
  5. Moved to another city or state – 38.46 percent
  6. Employers didn't care about employees – 37.69 percent

Generation X (Born between 1965 and 1981)

  1. Low salary – 69.32 percent
  2. Overworked – 60.36 percent
  3. Employers didn't care about employees – 52.79 percent
  4. Didn't like boss – 46.61 percent
  5. Moved to another city or state – 46.61 percent
  6. Lack of recognition or reward – 46.61 percent

Millennials (Born between 1982 and 2004)

  1. Low salary – 70.82 percent
  2. Overworked – 65.93 percent
  3. Employers didn't care about employees – 54.46 percent
  4. Didn't enjoy work – 52.34 percent
  5. Moved to another city or state – 50.35 percent
  6. Lack of recognition or reward – 46.03 percent

Among the factors least likely to have employees from all generations looking for a new job are having an employer that doesn't offer, match or contribute to 401(k) plans, having a sense that layoffs or firings were imminent and not being creatively engaged.

While not getting paid enough and being overworked are reasons for workers to leave, there are some generational differences on reasons that keep them where they are.

"When it comes to employees' reasons for staying at a job, the benefits that matter vary a bit by generation," the study's authors wrote. "Baby boomers and Generation X rank inexpensive, quality health care highest on their lists of reasons to stay, while millennials long for better bonuses."

The five benefits most important to each generation are:

Baby Boomers

  1. Inexpensive, quality health care
  2. Bonuses
  3. Paid sick days
  4. 401(k) matching
  5. Dental plan

Generation X

  1. Inexpensive, quality health care
  2. Bonuses
  3. Work-from-home days
  4. Paid sick days
  5. Flexible schedules


  1. Bonuses
  2. Inexpensive, quality health care
  3. Paid sick days
  4. Work-from-home days
  5. Flexible schedules

The researchers believe the study highlights what employers need to do to hold on to their employees.

"The most important tools for keeping your best people are good salaries, bonuses, and quality health care, as well as ensuring that employees aren't overworked," the researchers wrote.

The study was based on surveys of 2,000 employees throughout the United States.

Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based writer and editor with nearly 20 years in media. A 1998 journalism graduate of Indiana University, Chad began his career with Business News Daily in 2011 as a freelance writer. In 2014, he joined the staff full time as a senior writer. Before Business News Daily, Chad spent nearly a decade as a staff reporter for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, covering a wide array of topics including local and state government, crime, the legal system and education. Chad has also worked on the other side of the media industry, promoting small businesses throughout the United States for two years in a public relations role. His first book, How to Start a Home-Based App Development Business, was published in 2014. He lives with his wife and daughter in the Chicago suburbs.